Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"The Crossroads" By L. Ron Hubbard

"The Crossroads"
By L. Ron Hubbard
Multicast performance
Produced by Galaxy Audio
and Golden Age Stories
Approx. 2 hours

I have found my new addiction, Pulp magazine audio books. The old pulps full of short stories by great authors seem like a thing of the past. I don't know of any magazines that print short stories within any genre like they used to back in the mid 20th century. Some of the best science-fiction writers practiced their arts in those magazines. Golden Age Stories and Galaxy Press have taken over 150 stories by L. Ron Hubbard and have produced their own pulps, in the printed books they include some of the original artwork that went along with the stories and the books can contain from one to five stories within a genre. The many genres Mr. Hubbard wrote in were; Sea Adventure, Far Flung Adventure, Air Adventure, Westerns, Fantasy and my favorite, Science-Fiction.

Galaxy Audio (part of Galaxy Press, of course) has produced each of these "pulps" into what I would term Pulp Audio books. They have kept them affordable at 2 hours of stories for only $9.95 (2 discs). I understand they are also available as downloads, and sometime ask me about the super cool ePulp (a fully loaded iPod).

The great thing about Galaxy Audio is that they have taken these fantastic tales with larger than life characters and created some great listening. Like the printed books re-create the old pulps, the audio versions, with their multi-cast acting, sound effects and superb incidental music, re-create the old time radio dramas. The larger than life characters are superbly acted out and seem to be even larger than larger than life.

Here are the three stories included with this audio book:

"The Crossroads"
Originally published in February, 1941 issue of "Unknown Fantasy Fiction," may seem a bit like a lesson in capitalism and socialism. Farmer Eben Smith is fed up with the government paying him to bury his surplus produce in order to fix the economy when there are people starving in the world. So, Eben loads up his cart with some of his surplus, hooks up the horse and decides to take the food to the city and share the wealth, while making a little bit of money as well. Eben finds himself lost at a very strange crossroads. The crossroads consists of four very different roads: the wheel rutted road he's traveling, a white dusty trail, a road that consists of large boulders, and a shiny metal road. The travelers on each road seem to have something to barter, but once the barter starts each society represented by a road goes into turmoil. I guess this is what happens when a farmer falls into a nexus of time.

"Borrowed Glory"
Originally published in October, 1941 issue of "Unknown Worlds," Is a bit of a romantic story that tells of two magical beings that make a bet that a human cannot have everything he/she wants and then give it back after only 48 hours. One of the being seeks out an elderly woman that is on her death bed with no friends or family. She has led her life hanging in the background and is dying a lonely woman. Given the chance to love and be happy for 48 hours is a perfect chance for her. She soon meets a rich playwright and falls in love. The star-crossed lovers complete their whirlwind romance by getting married. As the woman approaches her 48th hour she leaves her husband and tells him not to look for her. As any man in love would do, he tracks her down, and in true L. Ron Hubbard form brings a conclusion to the story which may surprise you.

"The Devil's Rescue"
Originally published in October, 1940 issue of "Unknown Fantasy Fiction," a sailor is lost at sea after all the members of his ship have died just as they round The Cape of Good Hope. After he spends a week alone in a small lifeboat, he is rescued by a mysterious ship with an even more mysterious crew. He soon finds himself rolling bones to save his skin. This story is one that shows the jack-of-all-trades background of L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard was once a sea-farin' man and his use of the terminology really shines here, as a former Navy man I loved hearing the nautical terms to push the story along.

Once again another collection of larger than life stories to lose yourself for a couple of hours.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

"Destiny's Drum" by L. Ron Hubbard Multicast Performance Produced 2010 by Galaxy Audio

"Destiny's Drum"
by L. Ron Hubbard
Multicast Performance
Produced 2010 by Galaxy Audio
Approx 2 hours.

Recently I've been listening to the Galaxy Audio releases of the old L. Ron Hubbard science-fiction stories from the days of the pulps, 30s-40s. As I would do the research and find out more about these writings I found that they are also releasing other genres of L. Ron Hubbard's multitude of fictional short stories and novellas. The other genres are; westerns, tales from the Orient, far flung adventure, air adventure, sea adventure, mystery and fantasy. I have read some of the fantasy and they were just as fun to read, or listen to, as in this case. So I decided to try another genre. The far flung adventure caught my fancy so I picked out the title "Destiny's Drum." And once again my commutes were fun, while listening to this novella.

Before I get into the meat of the story, once again I would like to spout a little praise on the production of these audio books. Galaxy Audio mixes just the right amount of sound effects to keep the listener lost in the story, yet not too much to overpower the production. The acting in these stories, as well as the narration, really keep the feel of the time in which the original stories were written. They come across as old radio serials, with moments of urgency and humor mixed in with just the right amount to not sound hokey. I almost expect the end of each chapter to end with the narrator booming in, "Tune in next week for more daring adventures..." No matter what genre the stories, Galaxy Audio makes listening fun and exciting.

The story behind "Destiny's Drum" is that a renegade by the name of Phil Sheridan lands on the shores of the forgotten Indonesian island o f Kamling. He's captured by a primitive tribe (could they be cannibals?) and taken to their camp to meet their leader. It turns out the tribe's leader is Jose Emanuel Batista, slave trafficker, murderer, con-artist now tyrant.

Portuguese Joe, as Batista is otherwise known, knows of Sheridan's past and decides he doesn't need him meddling in his island paradise, so he sentences Sheridan to be killed in front of a firing squad. Sheridan cons the con-man and makes his escape into the jungle on the island. Where he runs into the island's true King, and another con-man turned gold miner. In order to get off the Island Sheridan has to get past Portuguese Joe and his tribe of Muslim cannibals, so he recruits the help of the miner and the king to overpower Batista.

This is a continuous island adventure that keeps you waiting for the next chapter, in fact I found myself taking the long way a couple of times just so I could listen for a little longer. One thing to keep in mind, this is an L.Ron Hubbard story so expect some very interesting twists and turns in the plot and the story may go a direction you aren't expecting. Just when you think you got it figured out and you're having fun listening to the story, it turns out you're still having fun, but it's not what you think.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Howard The Duck (Trade Paperback) by Steve Gerber Published 2002 by Marvel Comics

Howard The Duck (Trade Paperback)
by Steve Gerber
Published 2002 by Marvel Comics

When I first started "seriously" collecting comics I was collecting Spider-Man and anything by Todd McFarlane, including his Spider-Man stuff. I then realized that the rock band KISS had some comics, so I sought out the 2 Marvel Kiss comics and then Marvel's Kissnation. I did some further research and found that the very first appearance of KISS in comics was in issue 13 of the original "Howard the Duck." This issue also featured Spider-Man so it was a win-win. I soon found out that it was a win-win-win, because the issue revealed the subtleties of Howard the Duck and his troubled life. When I was younger I remember seeing my dad read a couple issues of the comic, I tried but being a kid, I just didn't get it then. Howard was a political-social commentary comic book, and at the time was a bit over my head. But then reading those back issues in my adult life, I found some very creative writing and some funny stuff.

Fast forward to the late 90s and I'm struggling to keep up with all the comics I want to collect. Spider-Man has about 7 different titles, Todd Mcfarlane has branched out and KISS launches another comic book under the Vertigo comics label. I'm starting to get tired of collecting, keeping up seems to be work and the fun has gone out of the reading because of this. In 2002 I learn that Marvel is relaunching the "Howard the Duck" series and this time they'll do it some extra justice because they are releasing it under the Max list of titles. The Max sub branch are a bit darker and definitely more adult themed. For starters the characters can use the "F-word." But alas at this time the comics industry has burned me out and I just quit buying comics.

Now this series only lasted 6 issues and I never gave it a chance, so when I see the trade paperback compiling all 6 issues into one I had to pick it up and see what I missed. I'm glad I did. No, it didn't get me back into collecting again but it did provide a great time reading a funny social satire in the form of a comic book. I thought it very weird that the cover had a picture of a mouse in a Howard costume (including the inevitable cigar) but that was soon explained.

Before I talk about the storyline in this one I should maybe give a little background on Howard. Years ago Howard was down in the dumps and about to commit suicide when he was sucked into some sort of space time vortex that transported him from his alternative planet where the dominant sentient life form was evolved from ducks, not apes. He finds himself crash landed in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Here he is befriended by Beverly Switzer. Through many adventures he and Beverly become pretty close but a human and a duck in love? That's just wrong. During one of these adventures Beverly is tricked into marrying Dr. Bong ( a bell headed evil villain).

So life continues for Howard & Beverly in the year 2002 and they find themselves living in a shack in a junkyard, because they can't find jobs. Beverly is then offered a job paying $125,000 a year. It all sounds too good to be true, well, that's because it is. The job is weird in that they are testing the appeal of boy bands on gay men. Well if a member of a new boy band doesn't test high enough, his body is thrown back into the DNA tank and an new band member is manufactured. Oh yeah and the C.E.O. of this company, Howard's arch-nemesis, Dr. Bong. Dr. Bong basically only hired Beverly to try to win her back.

Things get even weirder when Howard confronts Dr. Bong at the testing labs/DNA labs and Howard is thrown into one of the DNA tanks. Howard is turned into a Rat, er..uh, a mouse. Howard's DNA becomes unstable and soon Dr. Bong makes one final attempt at getting Beverly back by calling homeland security and telling them Osama el-Braka is hiding in the junkyard. After the army and girl scouts destroy the shack they find that there is no Osama or a duck (remember, Howard's a mouse now) so they apologize and leave. But this leaves the pair homeless.

Beverly and Howard end up staying at a metaphysical halfway house full of strange beings and then making an appearance on the Iprah show with guest Dr. Phlip. Iprah becomes posessed by Deuteronomy a heavenly experiment gone wrong, that was supposed to replace God because he's on a bender on Earth. Howard then learns the truth of existence and is told the secrets of God, Earth and Life.

Very entertaining stuff here, great social commentary and very unique looks at religion and government. Another aspect to remember is that this is a comic book so there are some pictures to look at as well. And as is tradition with any Howard the Duck comic, look closely at all the frames in the comics and you'll see many hidden pictures and further commentary. Oh yeah KISS makes an appearance in this collection as well.

Monday, March 22, 2010

"A Matter of Matter" by L. Ron Hubbard

"A Matter of Matter"
by L. Ron Hubbard
Multicast performance
Produced by Galaxy Audio
through goldenagestories.com
Approx. 2 hours

Once again I get the chance to revisit the days when sci-fi ruled. Going back to the Golden Age of sci-fi you have to remember that then the stories were sold to various pulp magazine publications such as "Astounding Science Fiction," "Startling Stories," and "Thrilling Wonder Stories." Through these pulps you could get your weekly fix of some great science-fiction through various authors. L. Ron Hubbard wrote hundreds of stories during this time and many in the sci-fi genre. Galaxy Press has started releasing a line of books (12 titles/year since 2008) each with a collection of Hubbard's short stories. These books are released in their own "pulp" version or as audio books.

This audio book contains 4 stories including the main title, "A Matter of Matter," with a cast of performers and narrated by R.F. Daley. Daley delivers the stories in a manner that immediately blasts the listener back to a simpler time, when these stories could have been aired on a nightly radio broadcast. The entire production reminds me of the old radio shows yet they still have a fun modern feel to them.

One thing I have gathered from listening to these audio books is that L.Ron Hubbard knew how to throw a twist on a story. The events of the stories are a great tale in and of themselves but Hubbard throws a wily twist at the end that could put an old "Twilight Zone" episode to shame. These twists are not entirely out of the blue, yet they do keep the listener guessing.

Here's a rundown of each story in this collection.

"A Matter of Matter"
First appearing in "Astounding Science Fiction" in August of 1949, this story tells of a young man eager to become king of his own world and through an advertising flyer he finds he can purchase a planet. There are many planets out there so the capitalists on Earth have decided to sell them off. Chuck Lambert is one of those suckers, er, uh, I mean customers. The day comes when Chuck's final payment is made and he blasts off for his planet. According to the contract he must spend 11 years on the planet. He lands on the planet to find out he's been suckered. Everything is opposite for him on this planet. The air suffocates him, yet there is green grass and plants, the water is refused by his stomach and the gravity makes him float. Chuck has been suckered. Or has he?

"The Conroy Diary"
First appearing in "Astounding Science Fiction" in May of 1949, tells of a man whose outer space adventures are a series of outlandish and comical tales that there is no way they can be real. Everyone laughs at the stories being published, then when the author of these stories is taken to court for unpaid taxes he is forced to reveal his sources and income. This could lead to the fall or surge of the exploration of space depending on how the case comes out.

"The Planet Makers"
First appearing in "Thrilling Wonder Stories" October, 1949, is the perfect story of how some folks will do anything to get out of a contract. A major corporation has paid to have a planetoid terraformed, but the contract says if ahead of schedule the contractors will be paid millions in bonuses, if late the corporation gets the planet for free. Sleepy Mcgee the head engineer, never gets upset when delays happen and equipment breaks down, even when the corporate big wig yells and screams, he just goes on playing poker via radio link with another engineer. Will the plantoid ever get completed?

"The Obsolete Weapon"
First appearing in "Astounding Science Fiction" May, 1948, is a great time travel story. A young soldier fighting Germans in WWII Italy finds himself blasted back to the time of Nero and finds himself as a spectacle in the Colosseum. With his modern weapons of war, the lions, elephants and slaves are no match, but when Nero feels threatened and sends out the legions he finds himself in need of a miracle.

All four of these stories make for a great 2 hours spent listening to some "old timey" science fiction that is very enjoyable.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

"Lifeblood" Book 2 of the Vampire Files by P.N. Elrod

Book 2 of the Vampire Files
by P.N. Elrod
read by Barett Whitener
Produced 2009 by Blackstone Audio

Once again P.N. Elrod has created a fun read in the second installment of The Vampire Files, with "Lifeblood." What makes these books fun is that they are not just another book about vampires but they are the film noir of vampire novels. Did you ever read any of the old detective magazines with stories about a private investigator of sorts cracking the case while at the same time narrating every little detail? Well that's what you can expect from The Vampire Files.

Barrett Whitener reads them in the fashion that brings up pictures of Humphry Bogart or William Powell as the detective. His delivery is perfect for the first person telling of these stories. Especially when he has to deliver such lines as; "That thought chafed at me like starched underwear." or "The knife was so sharp it hurt to look at it." These are classic examples of the language from the style these books are written in and Barrett Whitener knows how to deliver them.

Jack Fleming was an investigative journalist in Prohibition-era New York but when he died he became a Vampire and moved to Chicago. In P.N. Elrod's vampire mythology vampires exchange blood with a human and after the human dies they may or may not become a vampire. The logic behind this is that if in every case of blood "sharing" the human became a vampire, the world would be overrun by vampires. Makes sense. In Jack's case, he was sent by the paper to cover the world premiere of the movie "Dracula" starring Bela Lugosi. There he meets Maureen and they discuss the possibilities, they fall in love and she tells Jack she's an honest to goodness vampire. The inevitable blood exchange happens, with neither of them knowing if it'll take. Maureen then leaves saying someone is after her and Jack never hears from her again. In the meantime (book one of the series) Jack is killed and comes back as a vampire. He also becomes associated with a private investigator in Chicago, Charles Escott.

In this book, it has been 5 years since Maureen disappeared and up until now Jack has been running ads in the personal columns in several newspapers nationwide asking if she is safe. (remember it is the mid 1930s and Craigslist has yet to be invented) The five years past Jack has been faithful to finding Maureen, but he has now fallen in love with a nightclub singer he rescued in book one. So he stops he ads. His current love is about to hit it big with a radio broadcast performance and Jack is ready to move on.

The problem with stopping the ads is that it brings Jack to the attention of people who have been also looking for Maureen. One of these is a nearly comical team of vampire hunters named Braxton and Webster. Braxton owned a bookstore in New York specializing in rare books, especially those on the occult, he has been hunting Maureen and when Jack stops the ads he knows Jack has been changed. The other is Maureen's younger sister, now 82 years old (yes, vampirism keeps you looking young). The sister is wanting to find Maureen because she is dying, she wants Maureen to turn her into a vampire.

What soon becomes a hunt for the truth Jack and Escott have to solve the mystery of the never before heard of sister of Maureen and at the same time keeping the vampire hunters at bay.

With some great mysteries to be solved and even a few laughs thrown in "Lifeblood" is worth the listen whether you are a detective or vampire fan.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"In Odd We Trust" Written by Queenie Chan & Dean Koontz

"In Odd We Trust"
Written by Queenie Chan & Dean Koontz
Illustrations by Queenie Chan
Published 2009 by Del Rey

Have you ever read a comic book? I love comic books. Stephen King turned his "Dark Tower" series into a comic book series, Clive Barker has some comics based on some of his stories and so has Dean Koontz. It looks like Dean Koontz "Frankenstein" series is out in comic book form. What a great genre for authors such as these. There is a specialized genre of comics originated by the Japanese called "Manga." Manga comics not only tell great stories but feature some very unique illustrations. At the same time Manga comics have some fun quirks, like large eyes, extremely large tear drops to show sadness or exasperation, but they are very fun to read.

That's what this review is about. Dean Koontz created the series of "Odd Thomas" books (4, so far) that tells the story of a young humble every man that has 2 special gifts. The first and foremost is that he sees dead people. Not only does he see them but he does something about it. Let me explain further for the uninformed. Odd Thomas (yep, that's the name his parents gave him) sees the recently departed or rather, souls that have died but haven't yet moved on. Usually the reason they haven't moved on is that they've been murdered and Odd must solve their murder before they can move on. There is the exception of one soul, that of "The King," Elvis himself. Odd doesn't know why "The King" hasn't moved on or why he has chosen Odd's home town of Pico Mundo, California, to hang out, but he is pretty good company. The recently departed cannot talk, Odd doesn't know why and this makes things a bit harder when it comes to solving murders. By the way, in the later books by Dean Koontz, Elvis moves on and Frank Sinatra hangs out with Odd.

This manga comic is a prequel to the books written by Koontz and is co-written by Manga author/illustrator Queenie Chan. Queenie Chan has published several manga novels through TokyoPop.

This story is full of the twists and turns that Dean Koontz puts into every Odd Thomas novel. A child in Pico Mundo has been murdered and since Odd can see the boy's ghost, it is up to Odd to solve this crime. It turns out the kid's nanny is being stalked and when the stalker tried to deliver an eerie letter to the nanny the little boy was home from school early and the stalker killed him. What happens next is that Odd must find out who the killer/stalker is and keep him from killing another easy target.

Remember this is a Dean Koontz novel as well as a Queenie Chan manga and just when you think you have it solved, another turn in the story comes up and throws it all out of whack. The illustrations that push the story along are brilliant and the story follows great in the Odd Thomas collection.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"Under the Dome: A Novel" by Stephen King Published 2009 by Scribner

"Under the Dome: A Novel"
by Stephen King
Published 2009 by Scribner

When it comes to horror Stephen King is the master, but he doesn't always write about horror, sometimes Stephen King writes about the human condition and how human beings treat other human beings, and when looked at under the Stephen King magnifying glass that can be pretty horrific.

When I first picked up this huge book, I thought, "When am I going to find the time to read a 1,500+ page book?" Well, I did find the time and am I glad I did. During the reading of this book I felt as though I were hovering above the microcosm of the town of Chester's Mill, Maine and observing the trapped insects within. Stephen King has taken the faithful reader on many adventures which are epic sagas, for example; "The Stand," The Dark Tower series, "The Shining," "It," and others. These books not only tell a story but they tell a story on a grand scale that would astonish Tolkien or Herbert. "Under the Dome" definitely falls into this grand scale, not only because of the length of 1,500+ pages, but because of the depth the reader gets to know the characters involved.

The premise of the story is pretty much, "What would happen if all of a sudden a town was covered in a dome?" The answer to that is, "It depends on who lives in that town." That's what happens to the small town of Chester's Mill. A dome of unknown material and origin surrounds and covers the town all of a sudden on a lazy Saturday afternoon. Being a typical Stephen King novel the initial affects are pretty gruesome; a woodchuck gets sliced in half with one side on the dome and one on the other, a plane flying in the dome hits the dome itself, crashes, and sends body parts flying, a woman gardening at the edge of where the dome materializes gets her hands cut off, and many birds flying nonchalantly smash into the dome and die. All of this within the first 50 pages!

What happens next is where the true epoch begins. The U.S. government tries to bust the dome from the outside with missiles and learns the strange phenomenon is impermeable. Inside the dome is a former soldier, Dale Barbara, who after Afghanistan wants to simply blend in and not be noticed. But the President jumps him up to Colonel and says he's in charge until the threat is gone.

The problem with that is a greedy politician and religious zealot, "Big Jim" Renfield. Rennie, to his friends, is the second selectman in this town and uses the dome to try and become a dictator. The issue with Big Jim is that he has also used the town, his church and the local Christian radio station to become the world's largest manufacturer and distributor of meth-amphetamine. He was under investigation by the state's attorney general and the local sheriff but since the dome happened he sees himself as exonerated and in charge.

Rennie soon starts recruiting the town's bullies as police officers and declares his own form of Marshall law. He closes down the grocery stores, ceases all sales of liquor and even starts a food riot to show how he knows best. Rennie sees Barbara as a threat to his power and soon pins 4 murders (which were committed by Rennie and his son) on now Colonel Barbara and arrests him. Rennie then begins to brainwash the public into thinking the government sent Barbara into the town to create the dome and conduct an experiment on the little town.

This book takes the reader in depth into the struggle for power and shows just how corruptible people can be. I will admit that the explanation of the dome's creation lacks a little umph but that is not really the main ideal behind the story so I'll let that one slide, although it did seem a bit of a juvenile way to end the book. No matter how it ends, the total consumption of this book is a great adventure.

Friday, March 12, 2010

House Harkonnen Book 2 of the Prelude to Dune series by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson

House Harkonnen
Book 2 of the Prelude to Dune series
by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson
Read by Scott Brick
Produced by Tantor Audio
approx 26.5 hours (unabridged)

After the death of his father,Frank Herbert, Brian Herbert discovered some manuscripts left behind with more information on the universe of Dune. Teaming up with Kevin J. Anderson they began a quest to add more stories to the "Duneverse" based on these manuscripts and their own talents in writing Science Fiction. The first was the "Prelude to Dune" series. This book "House Harkkonen" was the second in this series.

Tantor Audio has re-released these books in audio book form and this time they aquired the award winning voice of Scott Brick. Back when I first started listening to audio books Scott Brick was the first reader I heard. After hearing his performance I became a huge fan of audio books. There's a reason Mr. Brick has won so many awards. His voice is completely adjustable to any genre and his talents are fully expressed when reading a book with multiple characters. When expressing the voice of another speaker in the dialogue in the book he can, with the subtlest of changes, change characters so the listener is treated to what nearly sounds like a multi-cast performance. At the same time he can add the characters emotions into the voice to the utmost perfection. Scott Brick is no stranger to the "Dune" series, he has voiced many of the audio books so he knows the material and I would have to say he is the perfect choice for the re-issue of these books.

"House Harkkonen" gives even more information on the buildup of what created the situations leading to the epic novel "Dune," by Frank Herbert.

This book takes place approximately 20 years after the Book "House Atreides" and about 30 years prior to the original "Dune" series. Shaddam Corrino IV is the emperor and his Bene Gesserit wife, Anirul produces only daughters, leaving him without an heir to the throne. The emperor is aware of the Bene Gesserit ability to determine the sex of their children and grows annoyed at Anirul for not giving him a son. Along with this stress factor for the Emperor the Tleilaxu have yet to produce a synthetic equal to the Spice Melange. This was the reason the planet of Ix was taken over and House Vernius went renegade.

Dominic Vernius is still in hiding as a renegade but his children, Kailea and Rhombur, are living with Duke Leto Atreides on Caladan. Leto arranges fro Rhombur to take in a concubine from the Bene Gesserit, and Kailea becomes Leto's concubine. Kailea gives birth to Victor the son of Leto and heir to House Atreides, but due to politics and the fact that Kailea is considered renegade Leto cannot marry her. Besides, the Bene Gesserit have other plans with Jessica, the daughter of Vladimer Harkonnen and a Bene Gesserit witch. Leto does arrange to have a lady-in-waiting to help Kailea. Kailea's lady-in-waiting, Chiara, is actually a Harkonnen agent sent to poison Kailea's mind against Leto. Kailea and Chiara scheme to assassinate Leto thus making Victor the Duke and Kailea a Regent. But the plan backfires and the planned explosion kills young Victor and mutilates Rhombur. Kailea then kills Chiara and commits suicide unable to face what she has done.

The Tleilaxu offer to make a ghola,a clone, of Victor in exchange for the barely alive body of Rhombur Vernius. Leto ultimately refuses, after much soul-searching, knowing that the Tleilaxu intend only harm towards House Vernius. Instead, Leto hires Dr. Wellington Yueh, an expert in the field of cybernetics, to fashion a cybernetic replacement body for Rhombur. Leto and Jessica fall deeply in love, leading Jessica to decide to conceive a son for Leto's sake, directly disobeying the Bene Gesserit's order that she have a daughter.

Baron Harkonnen grows weaker due to his disease, but he becomes more vicious, destroying his half-brothers life (figuratively first then literally). A Suk doctor determines the cause of the illness is from the Bene Gesserit he raped. Harkonnen seeks reveng on the witches but through mind tricks they show him who is really in charge. Meanwhile, the Baron's brother, Abulurd, uncovers an illegal stockpile of spice on Lankiveil. Rather than turn his brother in to the Emperor, Abulurd, a benevolent ruler and the polar opposite of his brother Vladimir, uses the stockpile to benefit his people. Upon discovery of this, Glossu Rabban, Abulurd's firstborn son, strangles his father to death, an act which earns him the nickname of "Beast." Baron Harkonnen also kidnaps Abulurd's other son, Feyd-Rautha, and tries to raise him as his own.

We are also introduced to Gurney Halleck. Gurney's village is raided and his sister is taken away. He later finds she is forced to work in a "pleasure house" for the Harkonnen military. He tries to rescue her but is capture and made a slave. He then tries to attack Rabban, but is outnumbered and Rabban punishes him by killing his entire family. Gurney escapes to Salusa Secundus to help Dominic Vernius with his attacks against the empire.

Dominic learns of the atrocities going on on Ix and gathers all his stockpiles of atomics to the south polar region of Arrakis in order to deliver them to the homeworld of the Emperor and destroy the House Corrino. But his plan is discovered and the Sardukar guards are sent to stop him. Instead he detonates the atomics destroying most of the south pole area of Arrakis.

On Arrakis it is learned that the Bene Gesserit have been mixing with the Fremen in order to blend prophecies of the Qwissatz Hadderach and the myths of the Missionaria Protectiva.

And this is only scratching the surface of this wonderful adventure into the Duniverse.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

"Mortalis" Part 1 book 4 of the "Demon Wars Saga" by R. A. Salvatore

"Mortalis" Part 1
book 4 of the "Demon Wars Saga"
by R. A. Salvatore
Multicast performance
Produced by GraphicAudio
Approx. 6 hours.

The "Demon Wars Saga" by R.A. Salvatore consists of two trilogies and this book, "Mortalis," to bridge between the two trilogies. The first trilogy tells of Elbryan the Ranger, Pony the warrior, Bradwarden the Centaur, Avelyn the monk, and Juraviel the elf as they battle the demon dactyl, Bestesbulzibar and protect the land of Corona from his evils. "Mortalis" covers mainly the life of Pony after the war, and develops some new characters.

Once again GraphicAudio continue to produce this saga in audio book form with their "Movie in your Mind" concept. R.A. Salvatore provided the great story but GraphicAudio brings it to life with outstanding acting, super sound effects and subtle, yet effective incidental music.

In part one of Mortalis we learn the Touel'alfar, the elves in the land of Corona, have taken Elbryan and Pony's son and have begun his training as a ranger to replace Nightbird (Elbryan). TheTouel'alfar have also begun the training of another ranger, Brynn Dharielle, a To-Gai girl whose family was killed during the war. The To-Gai are proficient horsemen, and Juraviel returns to find Bradwarden and have him find her a strong horse for her training.

During this time after the defeat of the demon dactyl the Abellican church and the King of Honce-the-bear are at odds. With the fall of Father Abbot Marquart and the evils he brought on the King wants to take away the church's powers. Many monks within the church seek a restructuring and look to rebuilding the church on the premises taught by Avelyn Desbris, in that the church should help the population not rule over them.

It is also discovered that the plague has been brought to the lands of Honce-the-bear. Rose colored circles with a white ring appear on the skin of those afflicted and the church has no power against the plague and wants to cover up the affect of the disease upon the land. While one monk believes more should be done.

In the meantime King Ursul is looking for an heir to the throne and if Pony turns down the church to become Mother Abbess, he may seek her out to be queen. However the Kings concubine has other plans and starts to show jealousy toward the way the King "eyes" Jilesponie (Pony). Pony in the meantime is still grieving over the death of her husband Elbryan and returns to Dundalis, their hometown.

With the excellent production quality from GraphicAudio and the attention grabbing story by R. A. Salvatore the separation of the book into 3 parts feels like one of the old movie serials, I can't wait for the next episode.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

"Bloodlist" Book one in the "Vampire Files"

Book one in the "Vampire Files"
by P.N. Elrod
Published 1990 by Ace Books

One of the latest trends on the internet is what is called a "mashup," where two different items are combined to make a single unique item. The trend has been mainly in combining two different songs and making a new song. The trend has come into the literature world with some recent publications like "Pride & Prejudice & Zombies," where the classic Jane Austen novel, "Pride & Prejudice" has been combined with some zombie battles by Seth Grahame-Smith. Well before this was an internet meme, P.N. Elrod created a unique mashup with the combining of the film noir type detective story and the supernatural world of vampires, in her Vampire Files series.

I love the old detective stories where the detective gets into many tight situations before finally solving the mystery. The best part of those old stories is that they are told in first person with the detective telling the story, and the descriptive language with quotes like,"You'll always be a two-bit cannon. And when they pick you up in the gutter dead, you're hand'll be in a drunk's pocket." P.N. Elrod continues this great language tradition and even throws in some vampires into the mix making this series pretty fun, if this first book is a good representation.

Jack Fleming, former newspaperman has learned that when you die you lose your memory. Jack seems to have a problem remembering who killed him. The last thing he remembers is waking up on the beach with holes in his shirt where the bullets entered and exited his body. Oh yeah, I should say Jack died human but thanks to his girlfriend, he woke up a vampire. Jack takes on the job of solving the crime of murder, his own. Jack's investigation takes him to Chicago where somehow his death is connected with that town's mobsters. The timeline of this story takes place during the years just after prohibition and yes the mobsters are still running gambling joints and night clubs.

Jack gets some help from a former actor turned private investigator named Charles Escott and with Escott's ability to put on stage make-up and act out roles manages to get behind the scenes of a local gambler and mob boss and find out why he was killed and then try to exact revenge.

The interesting aspect of this story is how Jack discovers the various new powers being a vampire offers. He's able to disappear at will and to control people's minds at times. Jack has to visit the Chicago stockyards for his dinner, since he doesn't like to take blood from people, he'd rather dine on the cows, at least to some degree.

If you are a fan of the old detective stories or a fan of vampires you'll enjoy this book, if you are a fan of both, be prepared to enjoy some literary bliss.

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

"Time's Eye" A Time Odyssey, Book One by Arthur c. clarke and Stephen Baxter

"Time's Eye"
A Time Odyssey, Book One
by Arthur c. clarke and Stephen Baxter
read by John Lee
Produced by Blackstone Audio
Unabridged Approx. 11.5 hours

When It comes to science-fiction there are some authors that just have to be read. Any true sci-fi fan has read at least one Arthur C. Clarke novel, the most often mentioned would be "2001, a Space Odyssey." "2001..." was only book one of what turned out to be a four book odyssey in Arthur C. Clarke's future vision of religion, intelligence and mystery. This time around Sir Clarke has teamed up with Stephen Baxter to create another odyssey through space and time.

The total series came out to three books but the third book was published as the final chapter in the series and yet did not conclude the plot. The final book was published in December of 2007 and Arthur C. Clarke died in March of 2008 so we may never really know if there was a fourth book intended. However each of these books can be read as independent works of great science-fiction.

Blackstone audio has recently produced the first book, "Time's Eye," with John Lee as the reader. John Lee does what seems like a nearly impossible task of singlehandedly voicing the characters and brings them to life by using a diverse range of accents. This is no easy job since the characters range from British soldiers from the 1880s, ancient Greeks, Macedonians, Babylonians, Mongolians, Afghanis, Russians and Texans. John Lee keeps each character separate with their own accent and attitude.

The premise of this book creates a great "What if?" scenario. What if Alexander the Great were to battle Ghengis Khan? That question is answered in what turns out to be a great mashup of historical figures in a new world.

The story begins with an Australopithecus being (the possible missing link) observing a silver orb in the sky. She is then captured by British Empire (circa 1880) soldiers who are guarding a fort in India. The discovery of this strange creature and the floating silver orb is interrupted by the crash of a strange flying object. This object turns out to be a U.N. peacekeeper helicopter with its 3 crew members from the year 2037. The British Soldiers investigate the crash and soon befriend the crew, even though 2 of the crew turn out to be of Indian and Afghan descent.

After talking with each other the time castaways figure out they are some how in a strange timeslip that has something to do with these suddenly appearing "eyes," the silver orbs. Soon the 2037 castaways, the moderns, discover that they are not the only ones from 2037. Floating above the Earth, or whatever this newly formed planet consisting of slices of various times from Earth's history is, a Russian Soyuz capsule is returning from the space station and gets caught in the timeslip and returns to earth. They contact each other using ham radios and more is learned as the 2 cosmonauts and one astronaut from Texas, send pictures from space of the new planet they dub "Mir."

With no ground control the Soyuz capsule lands in the middle of Mongolia. The ruler of the nomadic tribes of Mongolia is the great Genghis Khan. One of the warlords immediately beheads one of the cosmonauts, leaving the other two to think fast. They go to Genghis Khan as emissaries of Heaven. Back in India, the armies of Alexander the Great meet up with the British soldiers and the first band of Moderns. Both groups decide to trek to Babylon, since that is the location of a mysterious radio signal each group of Moderns has detected.

After many months the two groups reach Babylon to battle for rights of the land.

In what turns out to be a very interesting social commentary on the ideas of peace and humankind's ability to hold the peace, Arthur C. Clark and Stephen Baxter have created an intriguing time odyssey.